DOMINIK MERSCH GALLERY
Roberta Rich @ Knox St Window
Sydney's smallest art space, Knox St Window is pleased to present Specimen 1278086, a video work by Roberta Rich for Art Month 2020. Opening at 6pm on Friday 20 March at the Knox St Bar in Chippendale, Specimen 1278086 will be exhibited to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until Friday 30 April.
Specimen 1278086 explores Black representation with a particular focus on visual language, fetishism and stereotyped constructions of African identity. Drawing from the artist's so called "Cape Coloured" identity and created while on residency in Johannesburg, South Africa, the work reflects a history of the physical identification of people, particularly women of colour, through patriarchal, colonial and Apartheid constructs. The way in which people still look to a physical makeup to inform their identification of others, resonates strongly with Rich and her experiences of examination when questioned about her identity in varying contexts within South Africa and Australia.
A stop-like animation presents Rich, rotating 360 degrees, with measurements of the artists physical attributes, her nose width, eye colour, lips and buttocks protrusion measurements. The title alludes to a 'laboratory type specimen' whereby the artist presents herself to the viewer to challenge stereotypes of African female identity and reflect upon historical methodologies of Black women as 'specimens'. This video work draws upon the trajectory of language, while also referencing the histories of 'race' categorisation; the narratives of Sara Baartman; caste systems; Apartheid's pencil test; and U.S.A's "one drop" rule.
Specimen 1278086 serves to remind us of how colonial frameworks continue to inform reductive understandings of identity, and such ongoing projects of Western Imperialism.